Working with PCB Design Standards

March 19, 2021 Cadence PCB Solutions

Key Takeaways

  • Learn what PCB design standards are.

  • Explore commonly used PCB design standards.

  • Find out why compliance with PCB design standards is important.

As someone with high personal standards, I am used to performing under my own imposed rigorous metrics. When quality and safety are of the utmost importance, it is especially important to have a set of clear and reliable standards. 

In the realm of electronics, PCB design standards were created as a way to determine if a design is meeting the required industry standards. Since electronics are involved in so many facets of our lives, having and relying on these design standards is critically important. 

In this article we are going to talk about what these PCB design standards are and why it is so important to comply with them.  

What Are PCB Design Standards?

PCB design standards compliance for reliability and manufacturability.

PCB design standards ensure safety, reliability, and manufacturability.

When you’re tasked with working on a PCB layout, questions can pop up one after another. Should you increase the via size by a couple of millimeters? Is the clearance between the power and signal traces sufficient? What are the best practices for thermal management? 

Left unanswered, you’ll end up with a PCB that isn’t optimized to perform safely or reliably. To produce a PCB that meets industrial requirements, you’ll need to refer to existing PCB design standards. PCB design standards are guidelines that are laid out by a reputable and renowned industrial organization. 

As far as PCB design standards are concerned, the industrial organization of interest is the IPC. Launched in 1957 as the Institute of Printed Circuits, the organization has actively established various standards that relate to PCB design and manufacturing. Let’s look at some of the common standards and what they can offer you in your designs. 

Commonly Used PCB Design Standards

IPC PCB design standards for printed circuit boards

IPC standards, with the commonly used IPC-2221.

Whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned PCB designer, you’ll need to be aware of the IPC-2221 standard. It’s a generic standard for PCB design produced by the IPC and approved by the American National Standards Institute. 

The IPC-2221 is an in-depth document that touches on the entire lifecycle of a PCB design. It covers topics like mechanical properties, electrical properties, components, materials, and thermal management. Instead of glossing over the topic, the IPC-2221 provides actionable guidelines that you can use in your designs. 

In IPC-2221, you’ll find answers to detailed questions like “What’s the minimum size for blind or buried vias?” or “What’s the acceptable tolerance of hole-land relationship for annular rings?” This standard highlights the importance of good design practices for manufacturability

Additional documents are placed under the IPC-2221 standard that provide a sharper focus on various aspects of design. For example, if you’re working on a flex PCB, the IPC-2223 will help ensure optimum performance and quality. 

Other related standards with a lesser focus on design include:

  • IPC-6012B: Provides the performance requirements needed for manufacturing structurally stable PCBs.

  • IPC-2581: Established the information format shared between tooling, manufacturing, assembly, and test facilities. 

  • IPC-A-600F: Provides guidelines and acceptance criteria for a fabricated PCB. 

  • IPC-TM-650: Details methods for assessing different aspects of a PCB. 

Why It Is Important to Comply with PCB Design Standards

PCB design standard for uniformity in production

PCB design standards compliance for streamlined production.

The IPC-2221 is nearly 100 pages thick. It may not be as interesting as your typical novel, but it’s a document that any PCB designer should read and learn to comply with. It is simply foundational knowledge for quality PCB design.

Some of this foundational knowledge includes guidelines for:

Better Manufacturability

Every decision that you make on a PCB layout will affect its manufacturability. For example, the IPC-2221 specifies requirements for surface mount components. It indicates the difficulties in assembly if you’ve chosen components that are below a certain size. These are all important considerations for good design. 

More Reliable Performance

Whether it’s crosstalk, overheating, or other issues, adhering to the guidelines in these PCB design standards helps to reduce the aforementioned issues in your final product. Your PCB design quality will directly impact your company’s reputation, sales, and overall profitability. Besides, nothing brings greater satisfaction for designers than delivering durable and stable designs. 

Streamlined Production Process

It’s important to get every stakeholder in the PCB production process on the same page and complying with PCB design standards is the key to achieving that. With the entire production based on approved standards, there is less possibility of mistakes, and thus, fewer unnecessary expenses. 

Complying with PCB design standards is easy if you’re using the right PCB design and analysis software. With OrCAD, you can set the required rules and PCB design standards necessary to create PCBs with high reliability and manufacturability. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts


About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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